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'There's no justification for charging anybody': MP wants loophole closed to curb CERB scams

Last Updated May 21, 2020 at 10:43 pm PDT

FILE: A woman uses her computer keyboard to type while surfing the internet in North Vancouver. A Vancouver MP wants a change to the CERB legislation to close a loophole he says makes scams more possible. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Don Davies believes the scam highlights a loophole in the emergency relief funds tat needs to be closed

He wants an explicit ban on people charging to assist with applications

VANCOUVER – An MP says a loophole in the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit that doesn’t prohibit people charging fees to help others get relief funds needs to be closed to prevent scams.

Don Davies, a New Democrat who represents Vancouver Kingsway, says 77 seniors at a residence in east Vancouver were approached by an individual offering to register them for the relief funds in exchange for a 10 per cent cut of the money.

He says none of the seniors approached were actually eligible for the benefit.

Davies believes the scam highlights a loophole in the emergency relief funds, where it is not prohibited to charge an individual to help them with their benefit application.

“When I checked into it, there was no prohibition on charging anybody to apply for the CERB benefit. And considering it’s so simple, it’s a three or four question application, there’s really no justification for anybody charging anybody,” Davies says.

He has written a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office to have the issue addressed.

The letter asks for an explicit ban on collecting fees.

“Making money from people desperate enough to need emergency financial assistance is unconscionable,” it reads, adding free help is available through MP community offices, and by calling a toll-free number.

“These exploitative fees should never have been allowed, and should be prohibited immediately.”

B.C. senior Carina Alamil says she fell for such a scam involving the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and returned the money.

Alamil was set to receive $600, but took her concerns to authorities.

“I feel better now. I can sleep well. I did not realize that I helped people,” she says.

A spokeswoman for Carla Qualtrough, the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, says they are aware of benefit-related scams targeting seniors.

The spokeswoman says upcoming old age security and guaranteed income supplement will be rolled out automatically, meaning a potential scammer looking for payment to help with applications will be more easily recognizable.

With files from Lisa Steacy